Draft rules and regulations to flesh out last year's amendment to the law on protecting personal information have been disclosed for public comment, waiting to be formally approved by the Cabinet this fall for implementation as early as next spring. That will set the stage for the amendment's goal of facilitating greater use of data on people's behavior accumulated through electronic transactions — ranging from shopping history to records of travel on public transportation — for commercial purposes while tightening the rules for protection of privacy information. The bottom line should be that people's concern for their privacy must be eliminated in the commercial use of such data.

Expectations are high for businesses to tap into "big data" — massive volumes of digital information on people's everyday activities, including internet searches and their GPS-located movements — to analyze the data for marketing and possibly generate new demand. But public wariness and caution remains over the commercial use of such information. In 2013, East Japan Railway Co. came under fire over revelations that the railway operator had sold to a third party data culled from its customers' IC passes — showing the movements of train passengers — even though the sale was not illegal since information identifying the pass holders, such as their names, had been deleted.

The amendment enables parties that handle people's personal information to provide the data to third parties without consent of the people if it has been scrubbed to ensure their anonymity. Rules are now being set on what specific information must be removed before the data are provided to third parties so individuals won't be identified.